No. Just, No.

My apologies for starting the new year on a negative note, but there are dark clouds on the horizon*, and it’s best to buy umbrellas before the rain arrives. Bear with me while I point out a few things that need to be stopped before they become problems.

* That’s figuratively speaking. Literally, the clouds are here and so is the rain. California still needs water, but it’s nice to see the fill line moving up instead of down.

BBC America is about to start rerunning the latest season’s episodes of Doctor Who. I’ve got no problem with that at all. What I do take exception to is the plan to overlay the show with fan art, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook posts (I presume the latter two will be heavily edited for length), and BBC-provided nuggets of information (or, my cynical side suggests, “blocks of text superficially resembling information”).

There’s a place for tweets and blog posts. That place is on their original services. If I need to find out which random people I’ve never heard of want a new sonic screwdriver–and yes, that is one of the examples in the promotional announcement–I’ll go to Twitter myself. Ditto for pen and ink drawings of the guest stars–another example.

Before you dismiss my concern by telling me to just not watch the reruns, consider (a) the desperate need for network executives to continually come up with new ways to “engage” viewers, and (b) the popularity of live tweeting TV shows. If BBC America’s little experiment is anything but an abject failure, how long will it be before every new episode has one or more designated live tweeters’ output overlaid on the broadcast? Hint: the new season won’t start for several months (anywhere from three to seven if recent history is any guide). That’s plenty of time for the BBC to choose their torturerstweeters.

Please, don’t watch these so-called “Doctor’s Notes” and urge your friends not to watch them as well. Only a ratings disaster can save us from this potential scourge.

Moving on.

It’s probably too late to prevent this one. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is being remade for TV. And, lest you think this isn’t as stupid an idea as ever was thought, yes, it’s a remake of the movie, not a televised production of the stage musical. That latter might actually make some sense, in the spirit of the recent live TV productions of other musicals.

As I said, this one’s probably unstoppable. It’s been in the works long enough that the stars’ identities are being released. In fact, the first release was back in October. (Damned if I know how I missed that announcement.)

Let’s get real, here. Much of the appeal of Rocky Horror is its interactive nature. Even if the script is rewritten and updated (a repellent concept in itself), how is Fox going to encourage viewers to interact with the production? Are they taking notes on BBC America’s little experiment? Wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

If you think I’m being alarmist, consider how many people use pay-per-call 900 telephone numbers to vote on talent-based shows. Think Fox wouldn’t consider a “Text your joke to see it in a banner at the bottom of the screen” approach if they could charge 99 cents a message? Anyone think they haven’t already considered it?

End of civilization–to the extent that television is civilization–approaches.

Moving on again.

News out of CES is that Harman and Microsoft are collaborating to put Microsoft Office-based information in automobile information/entertainment systems.

Apparently we’re not talking spreadsheets and word processors here, fortunately. But the last thing the any driver needs is more distractions. I long ago gave up counting the days in which I wasn’t nearly killed by another driver doing something stupid: there just weren’t enough of them for me to keep track. Now I count how many times I’m nearly killed every day*. Give those drivers the opportunity to listen to e-mail, dictate replies, schedule meetings, and participate in Skype meetings and nobody will ever be safe on the road again.

* The current average is a smidge under one near-accident for every two miles driven.

I’m probably killing my chances of ever again finding gainful employment by saying this, but there is not a single job in which distracting drivers by sending them meeting reminders and requiring them to participate in the meeting while they’re on the road could possibly be important enough that they should be allowed to risk my life. Regardless of what passengers might do, for the person behind the wheel, the job has to stop until the car is parked with the engine off!

Let’s end this on a cheerier note.

Gizmodo–home of the reasoned response–is up in arms over an announcement by Fisher-Price that they’ll soon be selling a toy to teach preschoolers how to code.

Sounds horrid, doesn’t it?

The reality is rather less dreadful. The “Think & Learn Code-A-Pillar” is a motorized toy that can be programmed to travel different paths by rearranging its segments, i.e. a forward arrow segment will send it forward for a set distance, then control will pass to the next segment; if that’s a “turn left” piece, the critter will–surprise!–turn left.

According to Fisher-Price, this will teach kids “thinking skills, problem solving and sequencing”. Apparently, it will also teach them to omit commas, but I digress.

I’ve got news for Gizmodo: toys like this have been around since my long-vanished teen years. I haven’t seen any evidence that they’ve taught anyone “thinking skills”. My nephew is too old for the Code-A-Pillar (and not quite old enough to be interested in hacking one), but if he were several years younger, I wouldn’t hesitate to get him one–and see how long it took him to deliberately program it to fall down the stairs.

Frankly, from a “won’t somebody think of the children” perspective, I’m more concerned about Magis’ Me Too My First Office. Do we really need to turn pre-teens into cubicle dwellers?

13 thoughts on “No. Just, No.

  1. I beg to differ on one point. I am acquainted with said nephew. Give him a little explanation of hacking and how he might apply it to the Code a Pillar, check back in an hour or 2, and you’ll be hearing news reports of defenestrations by Gizmodo execs.


    • In all fairness, it’s probably safer than having them swerving wildly across all four lanes of the freeway while they dig their phone out of a pocket to turn on the speaker because the headset’s battery just died.


  2. I’m trying to think of a word to describe my reaction to the news about Rocky Horror. “Appalled” comes close, but it’s so overused that it has lost some of it’s power. “Enraged” comes close, too, but, c’mon now, I don’t really care THAT much. Let me just say that this is the stupidest, most uncalled-for idea I have EVER heard. I’m not exaggerating; I cannot think of a more stupid concept. Watch it take off and be the season’s big hit. That will be God’s way of telling me that I have lived too long. I often suspect that to be the case, anyway.


  3. “My First Office”? The mind reels slightly. Still, let us remember that when I was a sprout, little girls were routinely issued toy kitchens in which they could swink away baking toy yummies for the family (some were even small working models that could bake a mini-loaf). That, too, was preparing the neonate for a life of indentured toil. We’ve allowed schools to become factories turning out drones for the “work force,” so sadly I’m not surprised at this development.


    • A good point. How could I have forgotten about the Easy-Bake oven in all its various incarnations?

      Perhaps we’re doing no worse than we have in the past in that respect, but one could wish for some improvement in the past [mumble] years.


    • Regarding “Data Distracted Drivers”, I can’t be the only one who has noticed a relatively new phenomenon: the “Wait-Till-Somebody-honks” driver, who, when the light turns green remains in place until the driver behind honks- this being, of course, because s/he is busy sending or receiving “just one text” while the light is red. Of course, that text has to be read and responded to, and then there’s one more, and… The law against texting while driving doesn’t seem to apply to texting while sitting still, at least not to these folk.


      • I said “when the light turns green”, but, of course, this is also happening (even more annoyingly) in stop-and-go traffic; anytime the car stops for more than a second. Who ARE these people, anyway, and can we put them behind a wall, somehow, as Mr. Trump has suggested we do to “Immigrants”? There are some people I wouldn’t mind, terribly, seeing segregated from the general population. Oh, that’s right. We already do that. They’re called “Jails”, and “Prisons”. Well, I want one- a big one- for people who are merely annoying, and I get to decide who qualifies as annoying. Let’s see: People who ride their skateboards in bicycle lanes; they qualify. People who cluster in large groups, blocking a busy sidewalk when I’m trying to get someplace: yep. People who sell weak, watery brown water and call it “coffee”: definitely! People who bring in a stack of coupons and slowly, laboriously, bring them out at the checkout stand: Hard time! Hey, this is fun!


        • I saw a lovely example of the DDD a few days ago. He was third in line at the light in the left turn lane. The light turned green and then he pulled out his phone. Needless to say, as the fourth in line, I wasn’t too thrilled.

          What are the mandatory sentencing guidelines for those offenses? Minimum 20 years on a first offense, escalating to life without parole after a third offense?

          Side question: where do skateboarders get to ride? Speaking as a pedestrian-by-preference, I’d rather have them in the bike lanes than on the sidewalk.

          Note, by the way, that technology is rapidly freeing us of one such scourge: it’s been ages since I’ve seen somebody get to the supermarket checkout stand and wait for their groceries to be rung up before they pull out their checkbook and start filling in such highly variable information as the name of the store and their signature…


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